Category Archives: Material and Tool Information

Information about mosaic materials and tools.

Common Ground Public Art Mosaic Tables

Materials and Methods for Outdoor Mosaic Tables

Artist Risa Puno recently completed her interactive mosaic sculpture Common Ground for Rufus King Park in Jamaica Queens, NYC, and the project is a great example for discussing materials and methods for mosaic table tops.

No Plywood Backers Outdoors

Plywood is never an acceptable backer for outdoor mosaic table tops.

Humidity in outdoor air can cause plywood to swell, contract, and warp, and even if the displacement is too small to be noticed, it can still cause grout to crack and tiles to pop off. Once grout has hairline cracks, moisture can penetrate underneath, and then there isn’t any hope for the mosaic lasting after that happens.

If you have a wooden table that you want to mosaic for outdoors, then attach a piece of 1/4-inch concrete backer board over the top of the wood and mosaic on that. 

Seal your finished outdoor mosaic with a tile and grout sealer and reseal it each fall. Silicone-based gout sealers are wipe-on-wipe-off and easy to apply. Most of the work is buffing off the excess so that the surfaces are slippery. Continue reading

Missing Tiles Detail View Mosaic Art

Why Did My Tiles Come Loose From Thinset?

Recently, artist Jackye Mills emailed me about a problem she was having with her first mosaic project, and it really caused me a lot of angst because the artwork was a strong design that was otherwise well executed. I hated the thought that a first-time mosaicist could do such a good job on something so ambitious only to lose the project due to a technical issue. Continue reading

Cutting Vitreous Glass Mosaic Tile diagonally to make triangles.

How to Cut Diagonal Triangles from Vitreous Glass Tile

Many people report having trouble cutting vitreous glass mosaic tile reliably because of the embossed patterns on the back sides, which can interfere with the blades of the mosaic glass cutter, but if you take simple steps to minimize interference and rotation, it can be done.

What I mean by interference is when the blade slips down into a valley between two ridges instead of staying positioned in the desired line of the cut. Continue reading

Lighthouse Mosaic By Natalija Moss

Making Pictures With Colored Mirror Tile

Natalija improvised this picture of a lighthouse using the Colored Mirror Tiles to show that they can be used to render an image. We added these tiles last year, but I haven’t had time to use them in anything.

In Praise of Colored Mirror Tiles

I can say that the Colored Mirror Tile ranks the highest of all our product lines in terms of being “pretty shiny things” in a rainbow of colors. (Sure the 24kt Gold Mosaic Glass is dazzling, but that is only one color, and things like beads and gemstones are more accents than they are materials for rendering.) Continue reading

Online Source of New and Used Mannequins

People ask me about mosaic mannequins from time to time, and usually it is which adhesive to use for attaching tile to an old used mannequin they bought at a thift store. I also get questions about where to find a mannequin to use as a mosaic base, and I could only suggest eBay, garage sales, thrift stores and places the asker had already tried. Thankfully Judi Townsend at Mannequin Madness has let me know that they sell new and used mannequins online.

What Adhesive For A Mannequin?

Continue reading

Mosaic Patio Table with bench seats by Naomi Haas.

Glass or Ceramic Tile for Mosaic Patio Table?

Ceramic tile can be used for outdoor mosaic patio tables provided you live someplace warm year round, but otherwise glass tile should be used because it is impervious to moisture and freeze damage. There are other reasons to use glass tile explained later in this article.

Concrete Patio Table Set

Artist Naomi Haas recently completed a mosaic patio table set that included concrete benches, and I really liked it for several reasons. For starters, the table base and benches she had were sturdy and stable and appropriate for an outdoor mosaic (and not wood or rusted light-gauge metal or some of the other junk people email us about using).

Mosaic Bench 1 of 3

Mosaic Bench 1 of 3 uses a design of solid colors instead of being a copy of the other benches.

I also like the color scheme. Naomi colored the un-mosaiced surfaces black and used black grout to make the bright festive colors of the Mexican Talavera tile stand out. To make the concrete black, Naomi used a product called Flex Seal, but black spray paint could have been used. Another thing that draws me to this project is that Naomi made a different design for each bench instead of making them the same.

Continue reading

Mosaic Jewels, Gold, and Silver

The following picture of 24kt Gold Leaf Mosaic Glass Tiles mixed with Faceted Glass Jewels is the best evidence I can point to for our renewed commitment to finding exciting new products for use in mosaic artwork:

Mosaic Gold 24 kt with Faceted Glass Jewels

Mosaic Gold 24 kt with Faceted Glass Jewels could be used to make wonderful mosaic art in a medieval or Byzantine style.

Ancient Treasures

This stuff is pure treasure. It is hard to look at it without thinking of old kings and dragons and pirates and chests and treasures hidden in the earth. The look and feel is that of a jewel-encrusted relic like a Byzantine crown or a medieval book cover or an icon looted by Vikings.

I can’t wait to see the great pictures of customer art that are sure to come in!

Architecture Quality

Colored Glass Mirror Tile Architectural Quality

Our new Colored Glass Mirror Tile is architectural quality and amazingly beautiful. It sparkles a lot more than ordinary glass because it has real silver on the bottoms.

Our new Colored Glass Mirror Tile is architectural quality because it is colored glass (for non metallic colors), and it has silver bonded onto the bottom of the glass. The manufactured certifies these for indoor use in mosaics not subjected to chlorine or sulfur. You can cut these into small pieces because the silver does NOT fall off when nipped by a Mosaic Glass Cutter.

What’s Wrong With Competitor’s Mirror Tile

The metal plates on the bottoms of the cheap crafting mirror tiles sold by our competitors falls off the glass when you cut them. There is another type of cheap colored mirror tile on the market, the type cut by hand from colored mirror stock, but they are no better. The thin silver on the back of these is the same as ordinary mirror stock, and so those products require special mirror adhesive to avoid oxidation, and the glass is probably clear with a thin layer of plastic color.

Good Old Blue and Gold

Gold Leaf Mosaic Glass with Blue Porcelain Tile

Gold Leaf 24 kt Mosaic Glass with Blue Glazed Porcelain Tile are a strong combination that could be used for designs without anything else being added.

This blue and gold color scheme is the cover of a 1970’s Book of Mormon and the blue and gold of my high school mascot all in one. I want to use these to do some mosaic-encrusted mosaic chairs or cabinets that blends traditional pique assiette (china dinnerware mosaic) with veins of gold and other gold elements.

The Emotional Significance of These Beautiful Things

I was not able to focus on my mosaic supply business for about two years because I had several family members pass away in rapid succession. Of course I kept the business operating, but I could barely keep up with the day-to-day tasks of my employees because all my time was taken up by estate issues. I had no time to find and add new products or even pay attention to what was was going on with my competitors and their products.

When I finally got my head back above water, I started looking around the Internet at online mosaic retailers, and was angered by what I saw. I felt like unscrupulous people had been kicking me while I was down:

Competitor’s Cheapo Crap

To the west, I saw that I had a competitor selling cheap clear glass that is colored with thin coatings that scratch easily and age quickly and terribly. Would I have to introduce a cheapo product line of my own just to stay competitive? The angriest emails I received in over 13 years of business came from people who used poorly-made tiles like that, and so I couldn’t even consider selling them as a budget or cut-rate product. (No coincidence that this is the competitor that now sells their brand at Mallfart.)

Rape o’ the Sea Tile

To the east, I saw that I had another competitor selling natural mother-of-pearl tiles produced in Asia, where the sea is not harvested but instead is strip mined in the most unsustainable way possible, nothing less than environmental rape. Why would anyone with even the least amount of social or environmental awareness use that in their art?

That competitor is also selling powdered metal-oxide paint pigments for tinting grout, which is one of the last things I would want to sell to the general public or send in the mail as far as the potential for health hazards and lawsuits from improper handling. I was so shocked by what all the cheap questionable products and what they might do to our share of the market, that I even considered selling these powdered pigments for a while before coming to my senses.

But here is the worst of it:

Pretending to Be Mosaic Art Supply

Not content to ruin their own business reputations, these and other competitors had started taking out paid advertisements in Google that used “Mosaic art supply” in the headline of their ads. This was obviously a deliberate attempt to create confusion between brands and fool unwary shoppers into thinking they were at the right website. If these ads weren’t an attempt at deception, they would have used a more searched for phrase like “mosaic tile” or perhaps their own business name.

Delayed by Website Work

My competitors’ unethical practices made the need to find new and exciting products more urgent than it already was, but when I finally found time to focus on Mosaic Art Supply, I learned that the work most urgently needed was to rebuild the website in a new type of software that was mobile-ready. The rebuild was a large project that would take at least 6 months of intense work, but it was absolutely necessary to avoid losing rank in the coming Google updates. Our content and product names were way out of date too, and so it would require rewriting at the same time.

Even if I wanted to throw a lot of money I didn’t have at the problem, no web developer could write the content that I could, not after 13 years of consulting on hundreds of public mosaic art projects and answering a gazillion customer emails about projects and products and what confuses them on the website. Either I would have to talk with the developers so much that I might as well do it myself, or leave them alone and then be furious at how wrong their “expert” decisions were. I couldn’t get out of the website work even if I wanted to burn money. Yuck.

Finally Fighting Back

The website update delayed me in finding new products for a few months, and then there were the two months required for the goods to be delivered by sea freight, but when the first wave of new products arrived, I knew I was finally fighting back. The knock-out looks and the quality of the products I had found make me feel confident, downright righteous even!

Tell Gog and Magog that my house is set against them…

 

Ceramic Tiles with Mottled Glazes

We have an exciting new type of tile that fills a void in our product offering and not just because it is glazed ceramic. The glazes on these tiles are mottled with random splashes of different colors that makes them absolutely beautiful.

Mottled Glazed Ceramic Tiles selection A

Mottled Glazed Ceramic Tiles selection A

Yes, we have great colors in glass mosaic tile, but except for the stained glass, all of the glass products are solid colors, and that means there isn’t much visual interest when they are used in monochromatic color fields.

These new mottled glazed ceramic tiles on the other hand can be used to cover areas without being monotonous. In fact, they are a great way to add visual interest to your mosaic project, especially when multiple patterns are mixed and matched. I foresee these being used as borders on mosaic mirrors and picture frames and in mixed-media mosaic art. I am eager to receive pictures of your projects made with these.

Mottled Glazed Ceramic Tiles selection B

Mottled Glazed Ceramic Tiles selection B

Snap Apart By Hand

These tiles don’t come as individual tiles. Instead, they come as one piece, a sheet that is embossed with lines so that it can be snapped apart by hand to yield individual tiles of irregular shape. We snap these by laying a ruler under the sheet along one of the lines and pressing down on both sides with a gloved hand. Sometimes the sheet doesn’t break quite as desired, and a little scrap is created. BUT, even if a piece doesn’t break as intended, the pieces could still be trimmed with a tile nipper and used.

A Little Thicker Than Glass

Most of our glass tile is 4mm (1/8 inch) thick, and these ceramic tiles are a little thicker, about 3/16 inch.

Vacuum Attachment For Removing Dust From Small Parts

The new SPARDUSTER™ Small Parts Dust Remover looks like a simple vacuum attachment, but it is actually nothing less than a revolution in studio and workshop cleanup. With this simple tool, cleaning up a work surface covered in mosaic tile goes from 45 minutes of tedious sorting to a few minutes of casual effort. You can remove the glass dust from all your storage jars in a matter of a few seconds per jar  –without sucking up and loosing any pieces.

Sparduster small parts vacuum attachment

SPARDUSTER™  Small Parts Dust Remover Vacuum Attachment has a replaceable fiberglass mesh screen that prevents you from sucking up small pieces of tile and other parts.

SPARDUSTER™ Small Parts Dust Remover Vacuum Attachment

I had to clean up a room full of Legos and kept putting it off because it would take hours and hours to wash all the cat hair and dust out of it. I created a small prototype that eventually became the SPARDUSTER™, and with that simple tool, I was able to clean all of those boxes and boxes of Legos in less than 30 minutes and did not suck up a single piece!

Fits Most Vacuum Cleaners

This attachment works on household vacuum cleaners and shop vac with hoses 2 inches in diameter or less. The only restriction is that the attachment’s 1-inch diameter insert tube must be able to fit inside the hose.

For Tiny Parts

The openings in the mesh screen are 2mm, and the mesh is double ply, so you can clean some very small parts with this.

You can also pick up spilled containers of beads and screws and similar items quickly with this attachments.

Durable Construction / Replaceable Screen

These are made from heavy duty PVC plastic for long life. The fiberglass mesh screen is replaceable, and the unit ships with enough spare mesh to make 10 screens.

Simple Cleaning

Pet hair and lint will accumulate on the screen. To clean it off, simply pull the attachment out of your vacuum hose and vacuum it off. You will be surprised how quickly the filth builds up. The good news is that this attachment will have you living and working a lot cleaner because it takes so much of the tedious labor out of cleaning up after a studio session.

I still can’t figure out how managed to work in my mosaic studio without it. This simple attachment makes clean up so much easier!

 

 

Blue and White China Print Porcelain Tiles

We just added three different types of glazed porcelain tile for use as accents in mixed media mosaic art projects, and the most exciting of these are the blue and white floral china patterns.

“Blue and Whites”

Porcelain Tiles Blue and White China Print

Porcelain Tiles Blue and White China Print are made to look like pieces cut

“Blue and whites” are what I always called the china shards that I would find when walking fields and creeks. More so than the other things that I found (pipe stems, bottle necks, glass marbles, china doll parts), these blue and whites made me think of making mosaics, but I’ve noticed that over the years since I started making mosaics, I haven’t used these as often as I would have expected. I think it was because no matter how many I found, I never found enough that I didn’t think of each one as a unique treasure that needed to be the centerpiece of some work of art and not just one of many tiles.

But that’s only part of the reason why I found myself using fewer blue and whites than I would have thought. What really put them out of reach for me is that I couldn’t stomach the amount of waste that is created when old china is cut up for mosaic tile. Most of what you get from some plates is waste. And then there is the issue of the plate breaking in ways that splits the pattern up and the problem with many pieces not being flat.

These glazed porcelain tiles with floral china patterns are the perfect solution: None of the waste of cutting your own, a perfect glossy glaze. a great floral print.

I see these being used as borders around mosaic images and mosaic mirrors. The ones with mottled glazes could be used for that as well.

Mottled Glazes

Porcelain Tiles Mottled Glazes

Porcelain tiles with mottled glazes have subtle variegated colors with golden yellow mixed with antique hues of red, blue, and cream.

I think the 1-inch porcelain tiles with mottled glazes are going to be popular as well because they have subtle antique colors in blotchy patterns that you just don’t get in glass tile other than stained glass. Unlike stained glass, the variegated colors of these are done on a smaller scale so that each 1-inch tile has an interesting pattern.